The Scarecrow and His Servant—buy it
by Philip Pullman—his website
Recommended Age: 10+
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This book by the author of The Firework-Maker’s Daughter and The Ruby in the Smoke combines a fairy-tale concept with elements of the picaresque novel. That is to say, it presents a hero from humble origins, making his way through a corrupt world in a series of funny, ironic adventures. Seemingly set in Italy around the time of the Napoleonic wars, this story pokes fun at the foibles of people in an age quite different from our own – but not so different that we don’t feel the satire poking at us!
The Scarecrow of the title – Lord Scarecrow to you – comes to life one stormy night, and immediately sets out to make his fortune. From the first step of his journey, he is followed by a loyal and honest boy named Jack, whose wits are often the only thing between Lord Scarecrow and disaster. In hair-raising encounter after encounter, Jack and his stuffed-shirt master remain true to each other, while a sinister lawyer dogs their steps. The time finally comes when Jack’s loyalty is repaid, and the Scarecrow saves the life and makes the fortune of his servant.
This story has cut-throat bandits, temperamental actors, romance, magic, a military battle, talking birds, and a courtroom scene. It is also casually, almost innocently silly, as when the lovestruck Scarecrow declares that he feels “just like an onion.” Who could ask for more?
Charming, touching, extravagantly goofy, The Scarecrow and His Servant is a timelessly satisfying tale that I think readers, young and old, will love and admire even after many titles on The Book Trolley fall out of favor. What I’m saying is: Behold, a classic!